I don't believe I've mentioned this endeavor to this point, but seeing as it's late in the season, it needs to get worked in some how: I'm in a fantasy Big Ten league. Yes, the nerdiest sports-related activity around just got nerdier, by focusing in on one specific conference. There's no website that tallies numbers--this idea just isn't popular enough. Nonetheless, a week before conference season, I was lucky enough to join one of my friends and 4 of his office mates in the most ridiculous of leagues. I'm not sure why these guys let me in their league, or if I'm even qualified to do something like this. And I'm loving every minute of it (side wagers really do make things more interesting).
And since today marks the beginning of the first of our two weeks of playoffs, I felt it would be a good time to look back at the draft and assess the picks. Here are some baseline facts about the league so that you can follow along. There are six teams (unlike the debacle that was our 10 team league last year when I was routinely starting Northwestern's 8th man). Each team drafts 12 players. Each week, each team goes head to head with another team (or in some weeks, two teams). Each team must start 2 guards, 2 forwards, a center, and a 6th man of any position. Positions are defined by the listing on the player's school's website. One point each is awarded each of the following: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals.
Those are the basic rules, so let's check out how the draft went, player by player. Participants names are listed first, along with the players that they picked.
1) Jon: Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin
--Well, we're all Wisconsin based guys, so I guess this one makes sense. It's a really safe pick, too, since Wilkinson, aside from a few downer games early in the season, is the model of consistency, and rarely has a bad game. Nice first pick.
2) Kerry: Terrance Dials, Ohio State
--The league commissioner puzzled me with his pick here. I frankly didn't know that Dials was any good, as he wasn't even OSU's top center last year. Indeed, Dials has cooled off from earlier in the year, but his real value at this point in the draft is that he's a center. Given that there are very few actual centers in the league (or the country, for that matter), it was important to get someone who'd see floor time. Dials fit the bill, and is a very solid pick.
3) Polzin: Paul Davis, Michigan State
--Damn! That was the guy I wanted. Again, he's a center, and when I think of centers in the Big Ten, he's THE guy that I think of. So what if he disappears from time to time. I think most would tell you that he's having a pretty darn good year. A good pick by my old college buddy (and the only guy in the league that I've ever met face to face).
4) Me: Carl Landry, Purdue
--At the time, this was a tough pick for me. I never thought much of Landry when I used to watch him in high school, and I was basing the pick largely on the one Purdue game I'd seen prior to the draft. Well, thankfully for me, Landry was remarkable in that game, and his teammates were woefully inept. It looked as if Landry would be Purdue's entire offense this year. I guessed right on this one, and knowing what I do today, I probably would have taken Landry even if I had the first pick. It worked out perfectly. Don't worry--this won't become a trend.
5) Titus: Bracey Wright, Indiana
--This Titus fellow immediately took who I would have taken if Landry hadn't been available. Note this, as it will become a motif. He might not have turned out to be the top guard in the Big Ten this year, but he's a threat to go off for 30 on any given night, and you can't argue with that. Acceptable, but not incredible pick.
6) Taylor: Jeff Hagen, Minnesota
--Here's the first head-scratcher of the night. Hagen's not even the best player on his team, and to my knowledge, had never done anything overly notable at Minnesota other than becoming a fan favorite. On reflection, his stats aren't bad, and he is a center, so I can't rag on this pick too badly, but it could have been better.
7) Taylor: Aaron Johnson, Penn State
--Here's a player that I like. He was an 8th round steal for me last year, as a matter of fact. I didn't like him at the 7 spot, though, and I still don't now. Sure, he grabbed 21 rebounds in one game, but he's not been nearly consistent enough in Big Ten play for my liking. A couple more slots and I’d have been fine with Johnson, though.
8) Titus: Pierre Pierce, Iowa
--Ah, our first freakish roster casualty. I really liked this pick here, and considered taking him myself before he was off the board. Fortunately, he wasn’t available to me, since after a few great weeks, Pierce's personal problems caught up with him again, and he's not playing ball anymore. I had enough guys like this last year--it's high time someone else got screwed.
9) Me: Mike Thompson, Northwestern
--This was a risky pick--I knew Thompson wasn't the team's go-to player, and he'd only been eligible for something like 4 games so far, making him tough to assess. However, he was a transfer from Duke, had put up some good numbers in his first couple of games. The drop off in quality at the center spot after him also begged for me to pick him. In retrospect, Thompson's bum ankle and inability to get his butt to class (leading to his mid-season suspension) have made him a less-than-stellar pick. I also probably could have gotten him in the next round, since none of the other guys knew what the hell I was doing when I picked him. My buddy Nick tried to explain it to the guys who don't know me directly by telling them that I have some ridiculous well of college basketball knowledge that they couldn't possibly understand. Turns out, I just made a bad pick, but thanks to Nick for trying to make me look good.
10) Polzin: Alando Tucker, Wisconsin
--A seemingly wonderful pick, and one that I would have made in the prior spot if not for one fact: I had no confidence in Tucker's ability to stay healthy. Even now I'm still worried about his feet, though in the last few games, he's looked as explosive as I've seen him in a long time. Nonetheless, Tucker either sat the bench or played while dinged up during a big chunk of the Big Ten season, proving my aversion to his risky health to be quite rational. Too much risk for this spot in my estimation, but it wasn't a bad gamble on Polzin's part. Too bad it didn't work out better, though by no means was this a total failure.
11) Kerry: Deron Williams, Illinois
--Why didn't anyone from Illinois go until this point? Deron Williams was only the pre-season player of the year, and arguably the best guard in the conference. So yeah, nice pick here. Geez, the rest of us must be stupid!
12) Jon: Luther Head, Illinois
--I see we've caught on to the Illinois thing. Again, I think the rest of us are fools for not grabbing Head earlier, though at the time, I wasn't yet ready to put my money on his production lasting. As noted, sometimes I don't know what I'm talking about.
13) Jon: James Augustine, Illinois
--Okay, the Illinois thing is getting way out of control. I really like Augustine, and have since his freshman year, but this isn't the spot at which to pick him. I can think of a good handful of players I'd rather have. And that's still true now.
14) Kerry: Vincent Grier, Minnesota
--I'll admit it, I had written of everyone on Minnesota early on, and I didn't know about Grier, other than hearing his name a few times. Kerry even noted that he wasn't sure what would become of him, but had really liked him so far. And he was right. And at this point he had Vincent Grier, Deron Williams, and Terrance Dials on his team. Two of the best guards in the league and one of the two statistically solid centers in the league. Did I mention that Kerry’s the #1 seed in our playoffs?
15) Polzin: Dee Brown, IL
--Kerry told Polzin after his pick that he'd be an idiot not to pick Brown. I wouldn't say idiot, because I was waiting on another guy, but Brown was still a phenomenal pick at this point in the draft.
16) Me: Jeff Horner, IA
--Horner had some great stats coming into the conference season. If not for my wish for a center in the prior round, I probably would have taken him there. I was thrilled to get him at this spot. And I'm still thrilled, since after Landry, he's been my most consistent player.
17) Titus: Vedran Vukusic
--One of my favorites in the conference, and clearly the best player on his team. Again, I can't think of too many guys I'd have rather had at this point. That Titus guy is good.
18) Taylor: Tony Stockman, Ohio State
--As per tradition, I know next to nothing about Ohio State, so I didn't know what to make of this pick. I'm not going to do a stat check, either. I feel there should be one team in the league that I'm almost totally ignorant about, so I'm not going to start learning about the Buckeyes now. Well, that and I’m lazy.
19) Taylor: Courtney Sims, Michigan
--Well, it hasn't completely panned out, and it hasn't been terrible either. I loved this pick at the time, and I still like the idea behind it. I thought Sims would have a breakout year this year. He didn't, but he's still putting up decent numbers. We’ll call this pick not a win or a loss, but a push.
20) Titus: Greg Brunner, Iowa
--Damn, he did it again. I wanted Brunner. He was the only guy I wanted, and I felt like he was head and shoulders above the rest of the players available. And I was right. But Titus got him, so what can I do?
21) Me: Chris Hill, Michigan State
--Ah, I made the common mistake here of being seduced by the player who's really good, but might not have the stats to reflect that in a fantasy league. Hill plays the game in a way that I love to watch, but he's just barely a solid fantasy player. He's sat the bench most of the year for me, until now, as he's been scoring a bit more over the last couple of games.
22) Polzin: Dion Harris, Michigan
--Good pick. Non-conference season could have been more consistent, stat-wise, but I'd probably take his scoring punch here rather than the guy I got.
23) Kerry: Brandon McKnight, Purdue
--Yeah, I suppose that will work. I'm still not touching anyone on Purdue but Landry, but McKnight has done okay for himself, and probably warrants a #23 pick.
24) Jon: David Teague, Purdue
--See the Brandon McKnight explanation. I wasn't touching him, but I had no problems with this pick.
And I’ll have to finish up the rest of the breakdown some other time, in a rapid-fire manner, where I can tell you about my steal of the draft, and the curse of the “bad character” guy again. I would’ve tried to get to the end last night, but last night’s Oklahoma-Kansas game was utterly compelling, and had an array of point swings like I haven’t seen in awhile. So I had to watch.
As for tonight, I have no idea what I’ll watch, though the mediocre Big Ten game on ESPN will probably fit the bill. Either way, I should probably get back to writing about actual games at some point.